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From Earlier, which was published last month by Semiotext(e).

After we lose 25 South Portland Avenue (owned) to bad financial management, we move into 232 Carlton (rented). The owner is a doctor who points out to me that a trespasser once tried to get in through the roof, mere feet from my room. That leads to three or four or twenty years of anxiety around noises at night. The mother of one of my best friends is found murdered in a basement around this time, and a family I know is held hostage in their home on Clermont. The roof story sticks.

We move to the Eagle Warehouse, located at 28 Cadman Plaza West, in 1980. Cadman Plaza West is renamed Old Fulton Street, something my father supports. He also lobbies for a plaque on the building that points out that Walt Whitman edited the Brooklyn Eagle there. The building is easily visible from the Brooklyn Bridge, a boon when drunk in a cab. Our apartment is right next to the Brooklyn Bridge, and this is one of the most fantastic things about it. It feels like waking up in a child’s board book every day. People also know the enormous clock on the top floor, an apartment occupied by a classmate of mine who always has drugs and throws parties and walks around high and sad. That is, sad enough for another person in high school to notice, which is a high bar.

The muggings in Fort Greene are getting less playful, and a few friends are talking about guns rather than knives. I am almost six feet tall and sometimes carry money and will soon graduate from baby jacks to full-on stompings. We find the newly opened Eagle Warehouse apartment complex and somehow score the ground-floor apartment, the one with a big green gate and a dragon head. I’ll never know how we pulled that off. We live in a triplex, mere blocks from school and most of my friends. This is an astonishing development. Over the years, my parents make it clear that this apartment is sending us into financial ruin once again. It has become tangibly and manifestly clear that things are going to fall apart at any minute because they quite obviously do. You run out of tuition money, you run out of rent, your best friend’s parents cop a double shotgun suicide, your father dies. Bad things can happen and likely will.

My life at 28 Old Fulton is a dream, all things considered. I am no longer a social pariah. I am no longer a geographical outlier. Although I never have friends over, I can get to most of my friends easily. One day, in 1983, I make one of my many journeys into Manhattan, over the bridge to shop at Bondy’s and then J&R Music and Computer World. I return with a stack of records wrapped in those yellow-and-brown paper bags and secured with packing tape. I have Madonna’s debut album. I’ve started smoking Marlboro Lights. The windows of the building on the first few floors are fortified with wide deep lintels and thick mesh iron grating. You can climb all of yourself into the unusually big outdoor space between the window opening and the grate. I squinch into that space and smoke while listening to Madonna and Kid Creole and the Coconuts. The stereo is playing but I am not technically visible, so if you opened the door, you would think me gone. This is liberation, freedom, and goodness. This will lead somewhere. I will produce these records, play bass on them, something. This music is where something is. I am light-headed with nicotine. I feel freaky and free.

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December 2022

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